I think I was born with a passion for flowers. My father was a bulb grower and exporter, as was my mother's
father in a neighbouring village; my father and my mother's brother first met on a boat bound for America
where they were going to sell flowers. Ever since I can remember, flowers have been part of my life. When I
began to draw, and later to stitch, it seemed natural to choose flowers as my inspiration.
I grew up in the village of Sassenheim in The Netherlands, surrounded by bulb fields. When I looked out of my bedroom window in spring and summer I could see row upon row of flowers, stretching as far as the eye could see. My brothers, sisters and I would help in the bulb fields during the spring and summer holidays, harvesting the flowers in readiness for export to the UK, Germany and the USA. First it was the daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, later the irises, dahlias and gladioli. We would cut the flowers by hand using a blade, working up and down the rows, and piling the cut flowers in one corner of the field. It was backbreaking work, but we enjoyed it.
As my father was always busy in the fields, it was my job to do the gardening at home, but it was a chore that I loved. I had green fingers and enjoyed planting and pruning as well as weeding. My favourite flowers were sweet peas which would scramble up one wall of the house, their fragile scented petals quivering in the slightest breeze. I began to draw and sketch in the garden at home, which is when I developed an eye for detail. I wanted to make my drawings of flowers look exactly like they do in real life. My other passion was sewing, a skill I inherited from my mother. She used to give me offcuts of fabric and I would make clothes of fabric and I would make clothes for our dolls. It was my aunt who first encouraged me to try embroidery. I used to stay with her each summer, and she was always embroidering exquisite panels, cusions and kneelers which were sold for the church. I was fascinated by the way her needle would flash in and out of the fabric, stitching tiny stitches with lustrous coloured threads. She showed me how to draw a pattern on fabric with a pencil, then embroider over it with twisted chain stitches, french knots ans satin stitches. I took to embroidery quickly, and spent much of my spare time after that making pictures with coloured threads.
My love of designing led me to the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, where I completed ateaching course in drawing and fashion design. It was while I was teaching that I began to design my own cross stitch flower design. Some years later I made charts from these initials designs and a friend suggested I should sell them, so I approached a department store in Amsterdam who immediately offered to sell them for me. I set up in business designing and selling kits, which is what I have been doing for the past three decades, with great enjoyment.
Although I now design on a computer, the way I approach each design is still the same. I study the flowers themselves, either in the garden, in the countryside, or I take photographs and compose a picture from several different ones.
People sometimes ask me where I get the inspiration for my designs, a question which never fails to surprise me.
I always answer: look out of your window and you will see inspiration everywhere - in gardens, in hedgerows, in field, woods and hills. There are so many beautiful flowers, plants, bushes and trees growing, that there is not enough time to stitch them all. I knowthat I will never run out of ideas; it is much more likely that I will run out of time first! Before I do, however, I am delighted that I have been able to include some of my flowers designs in this website. They are all very detailed as I like to use lots of different colour threads. Some cross stitchers might find this fiddly, but I think it is worth it as the end results are realistic and true to nature. Although the designs might take you longer to complete, I hope you have great pleasure stitching them and, as you gaze on the finished pieces, I hope they will remind you of the wonderful glory of nature.
Thea Gouverneur, Sassenheim